City guide to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This city guide to Kuala Lumpur aims to give you all the information you need to start planning an escape to the Malaysian capital, be it for play, work or the start of a much bigger adventure.

City guide to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia © asab974 - Fotolia.com
City guide to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia © asab974 - Fotolia.com

City guide to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We'll share everything you need to know (but might not have asked) in this city guide to Kuala Lumpur, from choosing between the best of its attractions, to deciding when to go, and more - but be warned, you'll soon be itching to explore this delightfully diverse southeast Asian city.

Introducing Kuala Lumpur

Located in the west of the Malaysian Peninsular, Kuala Lumpur is home to more than one and a half million people - making it the country's largest city. It's also the base for its head of state, King Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and is the country's economic and financial power house.

Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur © Joyfull - Dreamstime.com
Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur © Joyfull - Dreamstime.com

Kuala Lumpur blends faiths and cultures (Malaysian, Chinese and Indian to name the dominant three) which results in a colourful explosion of temples, cuisines, histories, art and more. It's also the main gateway to the beaches, rainforests, historical sights, activities and experiences that the rest of Malaysia has to offer travellers.

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Why go?

From the cosmopolitan malls and bars, to the array of attractions old and new, Kuala Lumpur is an easy sell. It's also ideally situated for those keen to experience life outside the big city, with trips to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands, the beautiful beaches of Pangkor Laut, and the wildlife of Taman Negara National Park all within reach.

From May 2015, British Airways makes getting to the Malaysian capital even easier, thanks to its new route direct from London to Kuala Lumpur.

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What to see and do

Unsurprisingly, Kuala Lumpur is loaded with things to do, whether you're exploring the history, getting close to nature or indulging in a bit of retail therapy. In this city guide to Kuala Lumpur we're covering our pick of the highlights:

For the view

Let's start this city guide to Kuala Lumpur with the big, quite unmissable, hitters, namely the iconic Petronas Towers. Set foot in this international landmark with a journey to the Skybridge, suspended between the two towers at over 400 metres high, for unforgettable views across the city and further afield.

Menara Tower, Kuala Lumpur © 0tto0o - Flickr Creative Commons
Menara Tower, Kuala Lumpur © 0tto0o - Flickr Creative Commons

If you have a head for heights and a hunger for more, make your next stop the Menara, or Kuala Lumpur, Tower, with its expansive observation deck and fusion restaurant serving up even more memorable city-wide views.

For a bit of history and culture

Although not exactly a secret (it is, afterall, said to be the most popular Hindu shrine outside of India), a visit to the Batu Caves is a must when you're in Kuala Lumpur.

Batu Caves Hindu shrine, Kuala Lumpur © Moonkeys - Dreamstime.com
Batu Caves Hindu shrine, Kuala Lumpur © Moonkeys - Dreamstime.com

Pass the gigantic 47 metre high golden statue and make your way up the 272 steps where you're rewarded with a look into the sunken caves that house a 100-year-old temple bathed in light from natural holes above. You'll find a scattering of Hindu shrines at the top, as well as a museum and gallery at the bottom, and countless monkeys everywhere else - just don't look them in the eyes.

The National Mosque (Masjid Negara) may be a relatively recent addition having been completed in 1965, but it's symbolic of much more. It is one of southeast Asia's largest mosques, with a capacity of 15,000, and being located in the city's central Lake Gardens is surrounded by manicured grounds. Its blue and green tiled star shaped dome is of special note, and non-Muslims can visit outside of prayer times.

National Mosque of Malaysia © J€RRY - Flickr Creative Commons
National Mosque of Malaysia © J€RRY - Flickr Creative Commons

If you want a deeper understanding of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia, head to the National Museum, which charts the history of the nation from prehistoric times through to the colonial period and independence.

For families

Bird lovers will delight in this enormous free-flying aviary which is home to more than 3,000 birds, including hornbills, toucans, parrots, flamingos and many, many more. It also hosts feeding sessions and bird shows daily which are great for kids.

Rajah Brooke's Birdwing, the national butterfly © AnSchieber - Flickr Creative Commons
Rajah Brooke's Birdwing, the national butterfly © AnSchieber - Flickr Creative Commons

Another popular attraction for wildlife fans is the Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park where you can see no less than 6,000 butterflies of all shapes, colours and sizes flying around, and sometimes even landing on, you. Again, it's a great hands on experience for kids - don't forget to buy your bag of fish feed for the koi pond.

Sunway Lagoon Theme Park © Denny Sytangco Photography - Flickr Creative Commons
Sunway Lagoon Theme Park © Denny Sytangco Photography - Flickr Creative Commons

Reward good sightseeing efforts with a trip to Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, a huge complex located some 10 miles south of the centre. It has five different zones, including one water park that has everything from a wave pool and revolving pirate ship to river rapids, slides and the world's largest man made surf beach.

Other places to visit when you're in Kuala Lumpur include:

  • Chinatown - a favourite with locals and tourists, Chinatown is home to great value markets selling everything from food to clothing (don't miss the Central Market), as well art galleries, cafes, street food and more
  • Bukit Bintang - lose yourself among the designer shops, malls, trendy bars, restaurants and local eateries of this super cool part of the city
  • Masjid India Night Market - put your evening to good use at this popular night market filled with bargain souvenirs, clothes, jewellery and top notch street food

If you'd like a helping hand to ensure you see everything you want on your visit, check out the collection of tickets, tours and excursions in Kuala Lumpur that you can book online with Viator.

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When to go

Malaysia is a truly tropical destination with relatively consistent conditions year round. Across the year, temperatures don't fluctuate much between a maximum of 31°C to 33°C by day and a minimum of 22°C to 23°C by night, while you can expect up to seven hours of sunshine each day during summer months, dropping to around five hours in the winter months.

Kuala Lumpur climate guide © Weather2Travel.com
Kuala Lumpur climate guide © Weather2Travel.com

There are two recognised seasons in Malaysia, and even though they're referred to as the wet and dry periods, this really is relative, as Malaysia is subject to rain - be it prolonged spells or passing showers - at almost anytime of the year. The wet season sweeps in from November to March, while the drier season is present from May to September.

As you might expect, there's always a very high level of heat and humidity, as well as extreme UV from January through to December, so even if it's dark and stormy, best remember the SPF, good sunglasses and a decent hat - not to mention an umbrella.

Tropical downpour © -AX- Flickr Creative Commons
Tropical downpour © -AX- Flickr Creative Commons

As for when to go, the period from May to July is a popular time to visit, although you should still expect some downpours. This is also when the mountain regions to the north, including the much loved Cameron Highlands, are at their best weather-wise.

In reality, conditions in Kuala Lumpur vary very little during the year, which makes deciding when to go quite flexible. You can find out more about the city's weather with our dedicated climate guide to Kuala Lumpur.

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Location of Kuala Lumpur © Ruslan Olinchuk - Fotolia.com
Location of Kuala Lumpur © Ruslan Olinchuk - Fotolia.com

Essentials

  • currency: Malaysian ringgit
  • visa: British nationals do not currently need a visa to travel to Malaysia
  • dialing code: +60
  • time zone/difference: Coordinated Universal Time (UTC); GMT +8 hours
  • flight time from London: around 13 hours direct

Malaysia is a vibrant, multicultural country, but it is Muslim at heart. When visiting Kuala Lumpur the best advice is to be considerate of local customs and traditions, do your research to see if you're visiting during any prominent local or religious festivals, and be prepared if you're visiting during Ramadan, as many places close.

It's best to err on the side of caution when it comes to clothing by dressing modestly with loose fitting items, longer trousers, and tops with sleeves (which happen to be more comfortable in the hot and humid conditions anyway!).

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Getting there

No city guide to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without considering how you might get there and away. Kuala Lumpur has never been so accessible thanks to the new direct route between London Heathrow (LHR) and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) from British Airways. From the 27th May 2015, you'll be able to board the non-stop daily service, with economy fares from £569 return.

Search cheap fares with BA >>

Whether you're heading to the Malaysian capital for work, a holiday or as the start of wider travels within the country, hopefully this city guide to Kuala Lumpur has given you inspiration to get planning your own adventure for 2015.

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Kirsten Henton

Kirsten Henton
Posted on Thursday 9th April 2015 in: Asia City City guides

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